According to the first amendment of the constitution of United States of America, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, prohibiting free exercise or abridging freedom of speech; press the right of people to assemble and to petition the Government to readdress grievances”. It clearly stipulates that an individual right to practice religion is a fundamental right and should not be prohibited. According to the United States Constitution the freedom of speech, right peaceable assembly and freedom of press should not be infringed by religion view point.
During the years that have past there are various cases which the first amendment have been violated or put to test from various states. This cases deal with the infringement of rights and freedoms of individuals. The rights in the first amendment have been valuable to the free society, although they have been limited at some point. This is because when a person or entity takes advantage of this rights and the person is presenting a clear and present danger to the public, they should be limited when they endanger the public. Such a case as:
Stanley vs. Georgia (1969): The accused Stanley and arrested after, authority with warrants searched the home and found with films that were projected or deemed obscene. He was indicted, tried and convicted for obsession of obscene matter and was in violation of Georgia laws. The Supreme Court contended that statutes validity on obscenity is unconstitutional as an allegation was claimed on private possession of obscene matter and no evidence was found to indicate sale or expose or circulate content. Subsequently the first amendment prohibits making private possession of obscene material a crime. The Constitution protects the right to receive information regardless of social worth and free from government intrusions. Another case was one that defined the government’s obligations to respect, maintain and uphold legal rights of citizens in event of arrest.
Brandenburg vs. Ohio (1969): Clarence Brandenburg 1st amendments rights had been violated due to the fact that he had been punished for non criminal expression after his arrest. Clarence was a leader of the Ku Klux Klan he was recorded by a Cincinnati news station where his speech had racial slurs and which urged violence against African Americans and Jews. The state must preserve and protect an individual’s human rights and liberties (Olson, 2008). The Supreme Court ruled in favor of Brandenburg as the Ohio statute undermined the first amendment freedom of speech and expression. The Human rights which include respectful, fair and ethical treatment without violence and harm was the sentiments of the Ku Klux Rally were no immediate danger to the state. The Supreme Court distinguished between implied violence and violent acts. In the case below the violation of the first amendment right to access of criminal trials which were previously free to press and the public.
Globe Newspaper Company vs. Superior court (1982): The Massachusetts trial court provided for exclusion of press and public from courtroom case that involved a victim under the age of 18 and a defendant charged with rape of three minors. The Newspaper Company challenged the exclusion in the supreme judicial court it held that the fact that the exclusion order expired with completion of the trial at which the defendant was acquitted does not render the controversy moot within the meaning of Art. III. It held that by offering such protection it will serve to ensure individual citizens can participate in contributing to republican system of self government.
Massachusetts statute as construed by Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court violated the first amendment that embraces the right to access criminal trials which ensures that the constitutionally protected discussion of government affairs is an informed one. The court noted that although it was in the interest of protection closure it would be advisable to let the victim testify as the names were already in the press (Wagman, 1991). The constitutional right of press and public to gain access on the trial would not be restricted only and only if it is to protect the states interest. The role in the judicial process is significant as such trials have historically been open to press and public. It was noted that it was for protection of the minor victim’s sex crimes from further trauma and embarrassment so as to encourage such victims to come forward.
The First Amendment is a part of the Bill of Rights in and the amendment which disables an entity or individual from practicing or enforcing a religious viewpoint which infringes on the freedom of speech, right peaceable assemble, freedom of press, a right of access to criminal trials and prohibits governmental evaluation of grievances. Without the First Amendment, religious minorities could be persecuted, the government might well establish a national religion, protesters could be silenced, the press could not criticize government, and citizens could not mobilize for social change.
The Supreme Court interpreted the first amendment as a profound national commitment on public issues that should be uninhibited, robust and wide-open. Freedom of speech was important in the history of America as women and the oppressed minorities could express there needs. This also assisted women to use the right to assemble and petition and gather more women as per the right of association
Wagman, R. J. (1991). The first amendment book (pp. 12-78) the University of Michigan: World Almanac Books
Olson, D. A. (2008) Cases on the first amendment (pp. 500-750) Vandeplas Publishing